Published September 11, 2013
By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
COOKEVILLE-The Clay County Bulldog football team suffered their second loss of the year and fell a game behind in their conference with a 29-7 loss to rival Monterey here at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium last Friday night.
Despite the 0-2 start, new head coach Chad Barger believes his team still has a shot at the ultimate goal–the postseason.
“We are struggling, but we are not out of it yet by any stretch of the imagination,” Barger said. “Losing to Monterey is a disappointing setback, but we’ve still got Jackson and Pickett to come.”
As a part of the newly formed District 7-A, the Bulldogs now need to beat both the Blue Devils and the Bobcats to get an automatic bid to the playoffs.
“As coaches, we’ve got to find a way to keep this team motivated for the rest of the season,” Barger explained. “Our pride is beat down, but we came out of the game healthy and we’ve got to move forward.”
Like in their opener, the Dawgs struggled offensively, especially on the ground. As a team, they rushed for less than 20 yards, but did find some success through the air.
New starting quarterback Brandon Stewart passed for over 200 yards on 13 completions and connected with Jayar Fraga for Clay County’s first and only touchdown of the young season.
“He’s doing a good job for us,” Barger said. “He’s accurate with the ball and nothing phases him.”
The coach said Stewart took a big hit on the touchdown pass and gave a hint about the signal caller’s personality.
“He told me if he was down more than five seconds then I’d better come check on him, otherwise he was alright,” Barger said. “When he takes a hit he bounces right back up.
“He’s a tough kid and that’s the kind of players we need.”
Unfortunately, Clay County may need a bit more than toughness this week as they are set to host one of the better teams in Upper Cumberland Friday night at Coach John Teeples Field.
The undefeated Class AAA Upperman Bees are coming to town and Barger said he thinks they will be the best team the Bulldogs will face this year.
“They’ve got 24 seniors and we dressed 24 players last Friday night,” he said. “They are definitely going to be the most talented team we will see and they’ve also got the best player (QB Connor York) in the Upper Cumberland.
“They are a quick-strike offense and we’ve got to find a way to slow them down in order to compete.”
The Bulldog/Bee battle begins Friday night at 7 p.m. in Celina.
Monterey beat Clay County the old fashioned way–ground and pound.
The Wildcats racked up well over 300 yards rushing and scored all of their points crossing the goal line on foot.
“They were as physical up front as any team we will see,” Barger said, “and it showed.”
On the flip side, the Bulldogs couldn’t find a hole as their rushing attack was nonexistent making them one dimensional on offense.
“We’ve got to find a way to run the ball,” Barger said. “Whether it be some personnel changes or what I don’t know, but we’ve got to find a way to mix it up a bit.
“Throwing the ball every down is not going to work.”
After watching his offense go backwards and Monterey pound away at his Bulldog defense in the first half, Barger said he was somewhat pleased to only be down 14-0 at the break.
They dominated us early, but we were still in striking distance to open the second half,” he said.
Clay County took the third-quarter kick-off and showed some signs of life as they made an effort to slice the Wildcat lead in half.
Stewart found sophomore Clay Copas for a 38-yard hook-up and then scrambled for 11 more to move the ball down to the Monterey 13 yard line, but that’s as far as they would get.
Three penalties–one for five and two 15-yarders, ended the Clay County threat.
“That killed us,” Barger said. “There we were finally making some progress and threatening to score and we lose it.”
The Wildcats went on to score on back-to-back drives to go up 29-0.
“That was the turning point,” Barger said. “We could’ve cut it to 14-7 and then they score twice.”
Not hanging their heads, the Dawgs finally saw some success on the ensuing drive and found the endzone for the first time this year.
Stewart hit senior Jayar Fraga on a quick out-route and he turned it into a nice 17-yard gain. Then the junior quarterback flipped a screen pass to his tight end Wyatt Mabry–which the 6’5” sophomore carried inside the 10 yard line.
The advance was eventually capped off by Stewart rolling out to find Fraga who turned the short completion into paydirt for Clay County’s only score.
Baltazar Sebastian then knocked home the extra point to account for the final score.
“We got beat up, but these guys didn’t quit,” Barger said. “I’m disappointed in our lack of scoring, but that was a small victory for us to finally find the endzone.”
Clay County ran 39 plays covering a total of 222 yards in the game, with only 19 of them coming from 15 rushes, while the balance (203) came through the air on 13 completions. CCHS had eight first downs.
In contrast, Monterey racked up 414 yards of total offense and 25 first downs, with 360 of those yards coming on the ground. Four penalties cost the Bulldogs 40 yards on the night and they turned the ball over twice (INT, fumble), while the Wildcats had three for 30 yards and three turnovers.
Stewart had another good night as he completed over half of his passes going 13 for 23 for the 203 yards and an interception, while Jayar Fraga missed on the one pass he threw. Stewart also had six carries for 10 yards, Fraga had seven for nine yards, and Matt Fraga rushed two times for no gain.
Jayar Fraga was Stewart’s favorite target on the night hauling in seven catches for 116 yards and a touchdown, Copas caught two for 48 yards, and Mabry had one for 22 yards. Harley Smith (1/6yds), Latrone Bowman (1/6yds), and Matt Fraga (1/5yds) rounded out the receiving total.
Chris Nagy led the Bulldog defense with 10 solo tackles, but Jayar and Matt Fraga (INT) weren’t far behind with nine each. Mabry had seven, and both Dalton Smith and Taylor Strong (fumble recovery, sack) recorded a half-dozen apiece. Also getting on the board were Brandon Owens (5.5), Carl Ledbetter (3.5), Copas (1.5, INT), Tyson Flemming (1), Jordan Collins (1, sack), and Matt Maxfield (.5).
Ledbetter punted three times for 97 yards (32.2 avg), while Sebastian was one for one making his first PAT.
Historical numbers compiled by coach Daniel Strong from newspaper archives* show the Bulldogs have been unstoppable against Upperman (Baxter) in the past only loosing to the Bees nine times in 44 meetings .
The series record between the teams is 34-9-1 in Bulldog favor, but Clay County has lost the last five contests to Baxter, including the last meeting in 2006 where the Bees stung CCHS 42-6.
Single-game statistical leaders versus Baxter/Upperman include high rushers Billy “Teakettle” Smith and Gary Davis. Smith racked up 232 yards against them in 1980, while Davis tallied 201 in 1992. In 1983 Neal Bartlett had the longest rushing touchdown (83 yards) against the Bees, while Smith wasn’t far behind with a 72-yard TD in 1978. Eric Webb scored the most touchdowns (3) on the ground against Baxter in 1990.
Quarterback Steven Arms had the best game through the air against the Bees when he passed for 156 yards and four touchdowns in 1987 and John Carlisle took the receiving touchdown record in the same game as Arms found him in the endzone three times.
Arms was also responsible for the longest touchdown pass against the team as he hooked up with Brian Burchett for a 65-yard score back in the 1989 match-up where the two helped the Bulldogs score a series-high 54 points, while Johnny “Booger” Mclerran holds the record for the most receiving yards against the Bees with 115 in 1976.
Defensive force Todd Upton claimed the nod as the best tackler and also holds the mark at the top of the sack leaderboard against Baxter. He notched 14 tackles to go along with four sacks in 1984, while Tom White had three sacks in the 1982 contest with the Bees.
A half-dozen former Bulldogs tied for the most interceptions in one game versus Baxter. Mike Adams (1989), Burchett (1988), Gary Eads (1981), Wayne Key (1971), Darryl Reecer (1981), and Kevin Watson (1984) all picked off a pair of passes, but Jerry Strong holds the record for the longest interception returned for a touchdown with a 60-yarder back in 1970.
Andy Partee shined on special teams in 1977 as he completed the longest punt-return touchdown of 68 yards against Baxter to round out the list of historical highlights.
*(most pre-1976 and 1996-2009 stats not yet available)
How they fared
Like last week, Clay County’s nine other opponents this year played in Week 2 and finished with the same 5-4 record as last week.
Upperman (3-0) continued their good season downing Smith County (0-3) 49-26, Jackson County (3-0) continued to roll with a 49-12 win over Pickett County (1-2), Lancaster Christian Academy (2-0) beat Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (1-2) 54-15, Clinton County, KY (2-1) blanked McCreary Central, KY (0-3) 28-0, and Macon County (1-2) dominated York Institute (1-2) 23-0.
Joining the Bulldogs and Bobcats on the losing side were Red Boiling Springs (1-2)–overpowerd by Gordonsville (2-1) 55-7, East Robertson (1-2)–outdistanced 33-29 by Clarksville Academy (2-1), and Whitwell (1-2)–blasted by Marion County (3-0) 35-0.
Clay County’s 10 opponents now sport a combined record of 16-13 on the season.